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Parents' Guide to

The Holiday Movies That Made Us

By Marina Gordon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Deep dive into two holiday movies is insightful, inspiring.

TV Netflix Comedy 2020
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If your kid loves to do deep dives on their favorite movies to learn about the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes stories, and trivia, this two-episode show is a welcome gift any time of the year. The Holiday Movies That Made Us delves into the origins of two iconic titles -- Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas -- that couldn't be more different in tone and style but share one quality: creators who didn't let go of their visions. Elf writer David Berenbaum was inspired by Rankin/Bass cartoons, particularly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the father-son story at its core (his own father died when he was young). He ultimately found a champion in a junior New Line executive who brought in then-untested Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf and novice director Jon Favreau -- now one of the most successful directors around -- who got Berenbaum's vision from the start. Learning how certain scenes and shots came together makes watching the movie even more delightful --look in particular for the section on using forced perspective and the details about shooting in New York.

Most people probably think that The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Tim Burton; after all, it was marketed it as Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. But though the characters and aesthetic started with Burton when he was an animator and artist at Disney, he relinquished the director title to fellow Disney alum Henry Selick. Though the production had its challenges (the first scriptwriter was fired, Burton kicked a hole in the wall), the movie's unlikely ascent to "classic" status is a fascinating story that has its roots in the dedication of everyone involved -- "200 artist misfits" -- to create the first stop-motion feature film.

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